If you go to any French pharmacy and ask for “Armenian paper” or, as the French call it, “Papier d’Armenie”, you will receive a package of fragrant cut paper, pleasant to the touch. If you set it on fire, the paper will burn without flames.
The effect will be unexpected: you will feel a light, pleasant aroma, which has disinfectant properties. The French have been using Armenian paper for more than a century while in Armenia itself it is not as known.
In the late 19th century, a young Frenchman Auguste Ponsot arrived at the Ottoman Empire to study. Every time Ponsot visited his Armenians friends, he was surprised by a special pleasant smell which he had never felt anywhere else.
During inquiries, he found out that the Armenians burned papers impregnated with the resin of storax to disinfect their rooms and attach a pleasant scent to their homes as well as drive away flies and mosquitoes.
After returning to France, Ponsot decided to turn the “smoky idea” into material currency. Along with pharmacist Henri Rivier, Ponsot created his own paper based on the Armenian recipe.
They made a solution of storax resin and other aromatics in alcohol and impregnated a special blotting paper with it. Without too much thinking, the French popularizers of fragrant sheets called their product “Armenian paper”.
It immediately created a furor in France. The unique fragrant aroma became the fashionable smell of salons and boudoirs. The fragrance “Papier d’Armenie” began to be associated with glamour, originality, and modernity. And thanks to its useful properties, “Armenian paper” received medals at exhibitions on hygiene in 1888 and 1889.
The paper spread across Europe. In the Silver Age of Russian poetry, the paper was also popular in salons and homes. Some samples of fragrant papers in Russia have been preserved until today.
However, the Soviet Union ruled out the paper from use of St. Petersburg’s glamour considering it an echo of the former bourgeois system. Despite the great spread of paper in Western Armenia, the so-called “place of origin”, it is not as used and enjoyed in Eastern Armenia.
Generally, it is brought there by tourists and Armenians who had fled from the Turkish massacre. However, the paper has great popularity and brought commercial success to its manufacturer in France. And interestingly, the manufacturing technology remains the same.
For over 120 years, the main producer of the paper in France has been the Papier d’Armenie factory founded by Auguste Ponsot in the Montrouge district of Paris. In Italy, it is manufactured and sold under the name “Carta D’Armenia”.
During the celebration of the “Year of Armenia” in 2006 in France, a French perfumer of Armenian origin Francis Kurkjian created an anniversary composition for the Papier d’Arménie.